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Top 13 Alternate Universes In Pop Culture

Science fiction fans, start your engines. Thanks to seven plus years of data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, which measures the minute rays of energy left over from the Big Bang, we now have more evidence than ever to believe that alternate universes may coexist with our own. Compiled by cosmologists at University College London, these findings draw on a theory formally called "eternal inflation" – that such universes are popping into and out of existence while constantly colliding.
Whether evil, mustached versions of ourselves are housed within these bubbles of space and time has yet to be proven. But with any luck, any or all of them will contain some of the fantastic things found in this list. *Because the recent scientific development centers around multiverses forming and colliding, I have only considered fiction where characters have encountered other worlds that exist independently to our own. Excluded from the examples are any universes that were created via time travel, are drug-induced, mental delusions, or exist as magical realms within our own plane. Also, be forewarned, there be spoilers ahead.

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    Fringe's Universe B - Home of the Walternate


    No one in Fox’s epic sci-fi drama about governmental investigations surrounding the obscure, bizarre, and inter-dimensional happenings around Boston is really sure how or why a parallel world so close to ours came to exist.

    What we do know is Eric Stoltz starred in Back to the Future, they use zeppelins as a regular mode of transportation, and no one has ever heard of U2. Unsightly cell phones are replaced with fashionable "ear cuffs", Martin Luther King, Jr. is on the $20 bill, and the sexy doppelganger to one FBI agent, Olivia Dunham, known in our world as "Faux-Livia," has an overall more appealing hair cut. If you ignore the small pox outbreak, the only thing from making this universe any more superior is the yet-to-be-discovered joy of Peanut M&Ms.

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    In this Futurama episode, the professor attempts to destroy a mysterious box that almost kills him by blasting it like Herme’s zombie mother into the sun. However, the curiosity surrounding the contents of the cardboard receptacle is too great for Leela to bear, so before she delivers it to her fiery destination, she flips a coin to decide whether or not to risk unleashing, unknown terrors upon her and the Planet Express crew. The coin lands in her self-destructing favor, and she peers inside only to fall into an alternate reality where coin-flips in our universe have the opposite outcome.

    The result is a slightly different color scheme for the characters and the sky (apparently even God flips a coin to decide things), Fry and Leela are happily married, and we get to see an alternative Bender with a glorious golden ass. "The Farnsworth Parabox" also allows us to delve into some of the other awesome alternate universes, including a robot world, a hippie inhabited world, and a bobble-headed world, for some reason.

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    Marvel Exiles


    Refugees from space and time, the Exiles are mutants from the X-Men realities who have been recruited to help repair cosmic abnormalities which have resulted in adverse effects across universes. A veritable mashup of the Marvel world as we know it and a series of "What-If" happenings, the Exiles, originally comprised of Blink, Mimic, Magnus, Thunderbird, Nocturne, and Morph, take us on a world-tour of the Marvel multiverse, indulging us in the good and bad, although mostly bad, alternative outcomes of some of the best of the "X-Men" series.

    While much of what the Exiles themselves experience is disturbing, the worlds they uncover present well-constructed and thorough interpretations of alternate realities, which add depth and intrigue to an already intricate cast of worlds and characters. In addition, we as readers get to experience things we might not ever get to without the Exile universes, such as Dr. Doom being a hero, how worlds can be saved by buying a danish, and Sabretooth’s one-night stand with an alternate world's Invisible Woman.

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    South Park's Imaginationland


    This three-part episode of "South Park’s" tongue-in-cheek chronicle of political anxiety begins with a search for a leprechaun and develops into the discovery of a land that is inhabited by all the fictional characters ever dreamed up in movies, television, and literature. I don’t think I need to explain the awesomeness of having a world where you can rub elbows with the likes of Buddha, Count Chocula, and Jason Bourne at the same time simply by singing the ridiculously simple "Imagination Song."

    Sure, it’s bordered by a world that’s inhabited by the evil manifestations of our darkest fears, but until terrorists unleash havoc upon our dream world, we get to enjoy the thought of Gandalf the Grey, Luke Skywalker, and Jesus kicking it together on a regular basis.

    Imaginationland also offers us the opportunity to view constantly s**t-upon Butters as the key to world salvation, and the unsettling satisfaction that comes with seeing the payment of a bet actually come into fruition in the form of imaginary Kyle sucking real-world Cartman’s balls.

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    "A Link to the Past" is a video game for the SNES, which follows our beloved protagonist Link as he transported into two alternate realities, a light world and a dark world version of his known Hyrule. One is a Sacred place used to house the powerful wish-granting Triforce, and the Dark World is a shady and twisted version of the first realm created when the Triforce grants the corrupted desires of Ganandorf.

    Whomever enters this Dark World is transformed into shapes reflecting their personalities, turning most of it’s greedy and impure inhabitants into unspeakable monsters. Ganandorf himself becomes a giant manbearpig and shortens his name, while the universe mutates our virtuous hero into that of a pink bunny.

    The Dark World is one that mirrors the Hyrule of previous games but with the evil additions of swamps and skeleton territories, making it a more sinister and threatening reality but engrossing and oddly refreshing at the same time. It serves as an interesting and revealing dichotomy not only in game play but also between Link and the rest of the corrupted environment.

    A Link to the Past also has some of the best music ever presented in the Zeldaverse, making it a worthwhile reality for that fact alone.

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    Next Generation: Parallels


    While the Star Trek franchise is no stranger to alternate realities (the original series episode "Mirror, Mirror," is not only a staple to science fiction, but to science fiction spoofs everywhere), the Parallels episode of the Next Generation series arguably offers the broadest and most humbling glance into parallel realms.

    In it, Lt. Worf is accosted by a surprise 30th birthday party, only to experience glaring signs of skipping realities, such as the cake changing from chocolate to yellow and a painting being hung on a different wall. After Worf’s experiences escalade into Picard randomly appearing and disappearing and his bat’leth trophies becoming blatantly inaccurate, the word "concussion" is tossed around a bit. The confused Klingon unknowingly endures many other realities, including several where Riker is Captaining the Enterprise and he is married to Deanna Troi, until it is ultimately determined that Worf is indeed being transported across universes caused by a fissure in the space/time continuum. When an attempt to right the problem is made, the fissure destabilizes, as fissures are want to do, and over 285,000 realities culminate into the same area of space, shockingly without a single collision.

    After a scuffle with a Borg-overrun universe, Lt. Worf eventually does make it safely back to his own reality, armed with the knowledge that not only does he not have to endure another surprise party, but that Troi is not completely adverse to interspecies mating.

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    While avoiding a lame birthday party for Honker and simultaneously getting dangerous, Drake Mallard, aka Darkwing Duck, plummets into the secret hideout of his arch nemesis, Negaduck, by way of the most awesome portal to another world ever utilized in science fiction, a stripper-sized giant birthday cake.

    Unlike every other parallel universe mentioned in this compilation, the Negaverse is the only world where everything contained within it is completely opposite of the known reality. The pristine city of St. Canard becomes a wasteland, the Fearsome Five become the Friendly Four, and tomboyish Gosalyn even dons a pink dress and curls, for the love of all that is holy.

    Like a cartoonish and bird centric version of It’s a Wonderful Life, the realm of the Negaverse also serves as a point of self reflection for Darkwing, who emerges from the giant pastry with a newfound appreciation for his friends and homeland once he escapes back into his own reality. Unfortunately, Darkwing’s reemergence meant the disappearance of the cake-portal, a recipe which scientists have spent years trying to reproduce without success.

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    Functioning within the pages of legendary horror novelist Steven King’s seven-part magnum opus are a bevy of realities that weave in and out of one another, creating one giant melting point of multiverses.

    More fantasy than science in nature, these realms are nonetheless independent and intricate worlds from which characters in alternate realities, as well our own, travel primary through wooden doors without the security of walls or hinges. The In- and Mid-World environments where we follow the adventures of antihero Roland and his "Ka-tet" of gunslingers, somewhat resemble the Old West and medieval eras of our world, improved slightly with the inclusion of magic and mentally unstable machinery.

    King spares not a word in his development of these worlds, and the alternate versions of some of our own places and times, I’d have to say, at least 97% of the nearly 50,000 pages is devoted to making it seem as real as possible. To this day, I can’t swear I haven’t been to the town of Mejis.

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    Jet Li's The One


    Alternate universes abound in The One in which superhuman felon Gabrial YuLaw, portrayed by Jet Li, uses wormholes to jump to other realities and kill all other versions of himself, thus becoming the aforementioned, "one." The universes themselves are slightly overshadowed by YuLaw’s action-packed quest to obtain godlike status via multiple suicides, but the fact that this film gives us worlds where there is an opportunity to watch a martial artist battle himself across multiple planes is in and of itself worth mentioning.

    At the conclusion of this unrelenting quest for life energy, we get not one, but two happy endings where the sane Jet Li gets to live out his days in the fantastical world where Los Angeles is hailed as "America's Cleanest City" and the suicidal version of himself is sent to a , where he hones his murderous skills on an unending line of convicted criminals. Fantastic.

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    The characters in "Sliders" discover an infinite number of alternate worlds when physics grad student Quinn Mallory, played by Jerry O’Connell, invents a portal device by fusing an egg-timer with his television remote and cordless phone. Quinn, evidently rusty on his MacGyver skills, had not perfected the vortex-opening timer by the time he, his mentor, his best-friend, and token random-passerby experiment with parallel world travel, however, and they are subsequently stuck on a "slide" between worlds as they search for a way back to their starting universe.

    Before Fox decided to violently rape another quality science fiction show, "Sliders" was an interesting peek inside worlds with overt political and social differences. As traumatizing as it may have been for the character ensemble, exploring universes where the Summer of Love never ended, the Revolutionary War had not taken place, and the female sex is actually paid more than their male counterparts in the workplace is a wet-dream come true for "what-if" minds.

    Equally intriguing is the notion characters in the Sliderverse can interact with their alternate doubles without too much fear of repercussion, as long as the double doesn’t tie you to a chair in his basement and try to steal your identity.



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    Pre-Crisis Phantom Zone


    Originally, enemies of the Superman universe were shot into space with crystals attached to their foreheads as a method of imprisonment and erasure of criminal tendencies. After a few escapes and the realization that this was costing Kryptionian citizens a fortune (have you seen the price of rocket fuel these days?), The Phantom Zone was implemented by Superman’s father, Jor-El, as a more effective and cost-efficient way of housing known criminals.

    Granted, the Phantom universe is pretty bland, empty even, but what it lacks in furnishings it makes up for in the granting of age-suspension and telepathy for it‘s inmates. Villains have the opportunity to sit back and relax, enjoying all the comfort of watching the goings on in the universe without the burden of actually having to interact, while quietly plotting their self-serving schemes of revenge and terror in a realm so secure, it even keeps the "prisoners" nestled safe inside while Krypton itself is obliterated. When escape does present itself, the privileged residents of the Phantom Zone are even given the same powers as Superman, making random acts of violence exceedingly easy and no doubt particularly satisfying.

    Our own reality has it’s own version of the Phantom Zone where residents spend their days in exile where things seldom change and all that’s left are plotting of destruction and escape, but here they’re referred to as "retirement homes."

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    Buffy's Slayer-Free Sunnydale


    Based on the musings of Cordelia Chase that Sunnydale would be better without the resident vampire slayer Buffy Summers, an alternate reality is created by demon Anyanka, portraying exactly the world Cordelia envisions. While it seems all is back to normal for popularity-fallen Cordy as she reclaims her throne at the top of the self-loathing cheerleader hierarchy, the alternate universe she has inadvertently created also contains a town ravaged by the blood sucking undead. To make matters worse, a colder, dead-inside Buffy is living all the way out in god-forsaken Cleveland, where no one ever answers their phones.

    However, this reality is also home to hotter, more aggressive versions of Willow and Xander, making it more than inhabitable. When Giles saves the day and closes the parallel realm, we are left with a permanent new fixture in the Buffy series, Anya, which more than makes up for the fact that Buffy had to live in Cleveland. And die. Again.

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    As a movie, Cool World was not what you would call "well received" by critics. Garnering an embarrassingly low 3% popularity with Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert called it "a surprisingly incompetent film" (hey, at least it was surprising, right?).

    It in, cartoon characters plot to infiltrate the world as we know it by way of "spikes" in hopes of gaining three dimensional rendering, occasionally zapping some of their human counterparts into their own realm instead. As an alternate universe, this world actually is pretty darn cool, realizing the long-fantasized about concept that there is a reality in which animated characters carry on independent lives and we, in theory, can bang them.

    Cool World forbids the notion that noids, or humans, should ever fraternize with the cartoon "doodles," but that’s what makes it so naughty.

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